President Donald Trump finally began his taxpayer-funded trip to his Irish golf resort Wednesday after dispensing with a 65-minute airport lounge meeting with the prime minister that was added at the last minute to avoid a vacation-only foreign visit.
He arrived at Trump International Golf Links, Doonbeg, at 6:25 p.m. local time after a helicopter lift from Shannon airport.
The trip likely adds a few million more dollars to the $102 million his golf outings have cost taxpayers to date, according to a recent HuffPost analysis.
“I thought this would be the best place. I love to come to Ireland and stay at Doonbeg,” Trump said during a photo opportunity with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the airport’s Burren Lounge, on the second floor and down the hall from the Zest Food Court and the Gate 8 Duty Free.
The White House had started planning the golfing excursion weeks before asking for a meeting with Varadkar. At first, Trump officials insisted on holding the meeting at Doonbeg. Varadkar’s office, though, balked and insisted on meeting someplace not on Trump property, such as a historic castle nearby. In the end, they settled on the airport, where Trump flew in on Air Force One from England.
Varadkar greeted Trump at the base of the stairs at 4:55 p.m., and Trump walked out of the airport terminal building, meeting concluded, at 6 p.m. He was airborne on Marine One four minutes later.
Whether he played golf Wednesday evening is unclear. The White House press office only confirms Trump’s golfing when he plays with someone famous or a member of Congress, and it did not respond to HuffPost queries on the matter Wednesday. The traveling press corps, meanwhile, was sequestered for the night in Limerick, more than an hour away by car.
The sun does not set at that latitude and this close to the summer solstice until almost 10 p.m., and the weather was cool but dry, meaning Trump had enough time to play at least nine holes and possibly a full round.
Trump had already spent 178 days of his first 2½ years in office on a golf course, all but two of which have been on his own properties. (He has played twice in Japan at the invitation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.) Trump has been at his Florida courses near his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, on 61 days; at his Bedminster, New Jersey, resort 58 days; his course in Los Angeles one day; and on his course in Turnberry, Scotland, for two days last summer.
That count is more than twice the number of days former President Barack Obama had golfed at the same point in his presidency. And because Trump insists on playing on courses he owns, his dollar total is more than three times the $30 million Obama had spent by this point.
Each trip to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers $3.4 million and each Bedminster trip at least $1.2 million. Obama, except for two vacations per year, played almost all of his golf at military bases within a short drive of the White House. Those trips, like Trump’s to his course in Northern Virginia, cost taxpayers very little beyond gas for the motorcade vehicles and some overtime expenses.
Trump’s golfing trips outside the United States cost taxpayers a great deal more than his domestic golf vacations because of the enormous footprint generated by presidential foreign travel, with more agencies becoming involved. Dozens of White House staff members may travel with Trump during a weekend to Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster, but that number swells to several hundred on an overseas trip. The White House avoids lengthy motorcades on foreign soil, so Marine helicopters and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft must be pre-positioned using C-17 transports that cost $200,000 an hour to fly, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. A backup Air Force One is sent along as the support plane.
In advance of the Ireland trip, for example, the State Department has already paid an Irish funeral company $935,000 to rent limousines for use by the U.S. Secret Service, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Trump had planned to visit Ireland last November but abruptly canceled the stop after news outlets reported plans for massive protests.
During Varadkar’s visit to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day in March, Trump said he planned to visit Ireland this year and specifically mentioned his golf resort.
National security adviser John Bolton, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney took part in Wednesday’s airport lounge meeting with Varadkar, as did the Irish ambassador to the United States, Daniel Mulhall, and several of Varadkar’s top aides.
And though Trump flubbed his statement about the Ireland-Northern Ireland border post-Brexit in the photo opportunity ― “It will all work out very well. And also, for you, with your wall, your border.” ― he seemed to appreciate the threat a “hard” border would pose during the closed-door portion of the meeting, according to an Irish government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“He responded positively,” the official said. “The meeting was very constructive.”
By late Wednesday afternoon Washington, D.C., time, the White House had not released a synopsis of the meeting.